Istanbul, the vibrant city where East meets West, boasts a rich history and a myriad of attractions that entice millions of travelers each year. If you’re planning a trip to this magnificent city, knowing how to get from Istanbul Airport (IST) to the heart of the city, specifically Sultanahmet and the Old City, is crucial. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through various transportation options, essential tips, and practical information to make your journey seamless and enjoyable.

Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sultanahmet: The Gateway to the Old City

Istanbul Airport (IST) is located in the Arnavutköy district on the European side of the city, approximately 40 km (25 miles) from Sultanahmet and the Old City. As the main international gateway to Istanbul, it serves as a hub for Turkish Airlines and is one of the busiest airports in the world.

Sultanahmet, on the other hand, is the historic heart of Istanbul and home to some of the city’s most iconic attractions, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace. It’s an absolute must-visit for anyone traveling to Istanbul.

Distance Between Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sultanahmet

The distance between Istanbul Airport and Sultanahmet is approximately 40 km (25 miles) by road. Depending on the traffic and the mode of transportation you choose, it may take anywhere from 60 minutes to over 2 hours to cover this distance.

General Tips for a Smooth Journey

Before embarking on your journey, consider these essential tips to make your trip hassle-free:

  • Get Turkish Liras: Most transportation options won’t accept credit cards, foreign currencies, or large Turkish lira notes. Withdraw cash from an ATM at the airport and ensure you have 5, 10, 20, or a maximum of 50 notes handy. For more advice on handling money in Istanbul, check out our Istanbul money strategy.
  • Get an Istanbul Kart: If you plan to use public transportation, purchase an Istanbul Kart at the airport and load sufficient funds on it. The card is cheaper and mandatory on most public transportation lines.
  • Hotel Address: Write down or print out your hotel’s exact address and telephone number. Istanbul is a vast city, and even locals may not know every hotel. If you need help, simply hand over the piece of paper.
  • Plan Your Trip or Book Transfer Online: To ease your journey, plan your trip or book a transfer online in advance.
  • Arrive Early at the Airport: Be at the airport at least 1.5 hours before domestic flights and 2.5 hours before international flights. Since the airport is large, you’ll need at least 15 minutes to walk between points inside the airport. For international flights, check-in must be completed at least 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time, or you risk losing your ticket and flight privileges.

Transportation Options from Istanbul Airport (IST) to Sultanahmet

Here is a summary of the available transportation options from IST to Sultanahmet:

HAVAIST Airport Shuttle (HVIST-12 + T1 Tram)120 min, more during rush hour97 TL
Private ShuttleAbout 60 minAbout 40$ (about 750 TL)
TaxiAbout 60 minNo fixed Price, but about 600 TL
Car RentalAbout 60 minFrom 650 TL for a 24 hours + gas
Public Transport (H-1 Bus + 89C Bus + T1 Tram)About 2 and a half hoursAbout 40 TL
Keep in mind that there is NO direct Airport Shuttle to Sultanahmet from IST. The Private Shuttle is the most comfortable and convenient way to travel between Istanbul Airport and Sultanahmet or Eminonu.

Istanbul Airport Taxi to Sultanahmet

If you’re considering taking a taxi, we recommend choosing a private transfer instead. There are numerous taxi scams in Istanbul, and you could end up paying 2,000 TL instead of the expected 700 TL. Private transfers are similarly priced but offer a safer and more reliable experience. If you have a layover, think twice before choosing a taxi, as they can be unreliable.

We recommend Welcome Pickups, one of the best, most trustworthy, and convenient 5-star airport taxi companies for your transfer from Istanbul Airport. Based on user reviews across various platforms such as Google, TripAdvisor, and Trustpilot, Welcome Pickups offers a great experience and safety to its travelers.

  • Local English-speaking drivers
  • Flat, pre-paid fee
  • Flight monitoring for delays
  • 24/7 Customer support + free cancellation

Istanbul Airport Metro to Sultanahmet

Another option for getting from Istanbul airport to Sultanahmet is by taking the metro. The Istanbul airport metro is a fast and affordable way to travel, and it runs from the airport to various destinations in Istanbul, including Sultanahmet.

Here are the steps to get from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet using public transportation:

  • Take the M11 high-speed metro to Kağıthane station
  • Transfer to the M7 metro to Şişli-Mecidiyeköy
  • Get off at Mecidiyekoy station
  • Take the M2 Yenikapi-Haciosman Metro Line
  • Get off at Taksim station
  • Take the F1 Taksim-Kabatas Funciular line to Kabatas
  • Take the T1 Kabatas-Bagcilar Tram line
  • Get off at the Sultanahmet stop

Alternatively, you can take the M2 Metro to Yenikapi, join the M1A metro line to Aksaray, take the T1 Kabatas-Bagcilar Tram line, and get off at the Sultanahmet stop. This route takes about an hour with transfers.

To make your transportation around Istanbul even more convenient, you may want to consider getting an Istanbulkart or Tourist Pass. They offer discounted fares and can save you time and money during your trip. Check out our article on how to get an Istanbulkart or Tourist Pass for more information.

Private Shuttle from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet

The Private Shuttle is a convenient and comfortable option, especially if you’re traveling with children, pets, or carrying a significant amount of luggage. This door-to-door service ensures a hassle-free experience from the moment you exit the airport to the entrance of your chosen destination, all at a pre-scheduled time that suits you best.

One of the main advantages of choosing a private shuttle is the personalized service you receive. The drivers are often friendly, knowledgeable, and can offer helpful insights about Istanbul and its many attractions. This way, you can gather valuable tips and recommendations for your trip.

We highly recommend Welcome Pickups, one of the best, most reliable, and convenient airport transfer services available in Istanbul. Welcome Pickups has garnered numerous positive reviews across various platforms such as Google, TripAdvisor, and Trustpilot, ensuring a top-notch experience and safety for its travelers.

By choosing a private shuttle, particularly Welcome Pickups, you can ensure a comfortable, reliable, and stress-free airport transfer experience for your journey between Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sultanahmet or the Old City.

Istanbul Havaist Airport

HAVAIST Airport Shuttle/Bus to Sultanahmet

To take the HAVAIST shuttle bus from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet Square, go to level -2 in the New Istanbul Airport and take any lift to Level -2 Floor for HAVAIST Buses towards any of the 20 stops.

It takes about 90 minutes to get to Sultanahmet Square, and the fee is 87 liras (about 5 dollars). You can pay by credit or debit card inside the vehicle, or by using the HAVAIST Mobile Application or website’s QR Code. No cash is accepted.

To go from Sultanahmet to Istanbul Airport by HAVAIST bus, take the HAVAIST bus to Beyazit. From there, you can use the T-1 Tram Line to reach Sultanahmet in 2 stops. The distance between Beyazit and Sultanahmet is about 1.5 km, and the tram ride takes approximately 5 minutes.

Read our in-depth guide to HAVAIST

Car Rentals

Car rentals are a popular choice for travelers who prefer the freedom and flexibility of self-drive while exploring Istanbul and its many attractions. With a rental car, you can set your own schedule, avoid the hassle of public transportation, and enjoy the convenience of traveling at your own pace.

We highly recommend Rentalcars, a reliable and widely recognized car rental platform that offers a wide range of vehicles to choose from. By booking with Rentalcars, you can expect a seamless experience and access to an extensive network of reputable car rental companies.

Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet: Which Option to Choose?

For fast and convenient transportation from Istanbul airport to Sultanahmet, consider taking a private shuttle or taxi. However, if you’re on a tight budget, using public transportation such as the metro or HAVAIST may be a better option. Keep in mind that public transportation requires transfers and may take more time, so plan accordingly to avoid missing your flight.


Traveling from Istanbul airport to Sultanahmet doesn’t have to be complicated. By choosing the right transportation option for your needs, you can start your trip to Istanbul stress-free and enjoy everything this beautiful city has to offer. Use this comprehensive guide to make an informed decision and have a smooth journey.


How far is Istanbul Airport from the city?

Istanbul Airport is approximately 40 km (25 miles) away from the city center.

How far is the Blue Mosque from Istanbul Airport?

The Blue Mosque is approximately 40 km (25 miles) away from Istanbul Airport.

What is the best way to get from Istanbul Airport to the city?

The best way to get from Istanbul Airport to the city depends on your preferences, budget, and schedule. Options include the HAVAIST Airport Shuttle, private shuttle, taxi, car rental, and public transportation.

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